Cracking the New Energy Code in North Dakota
With a weather smorgasbord that offers heavy snow, Red River floods, tornado alley, powerful straight line winds and temperature ranges from -60 below to 100+ above, North Dakota presents impressive challenges to architects, engineers, designers and contractors tasked with creating buildings to stand up to the North Land. Recent updates to the North Dakota Energy Code can add a learning curve to those challenges. Kraus-Anderson Construction Company MEP Systems Manager Matt Stringfellow has helped many design professionals get up to speed on the energy code in Minnesota. Now he’s bringing his AIA-accredited, one-hour training to focus on the new, and more stringent, energy code needs in North Dakota.
Q: When did the new energy code take effect in the State of North Dakota? What is the extent of its jurisdiction?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: Effective January 1, 2017 as part of the State Building Code, North Dakota adopted the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) along with state amendments for the state energy code. In North Dakota if a city, county, or township elects to adopt and enforce building codes, it must adopt and enforce the State Building Code. However, a jurisdiction is allowed to further amend the State Building Code to conform to local needs. Fully chartered Home Rule Cities may adopt something other than the State Building Code, but at the present time, all that enforce a building code have elected to adopt the same individual codes that make up the State Building Code.
Q: What was the previous energy code in North Dakota?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: North Dakota previously adopted the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code. However at that time the energy code requirements were voluntary, not mandatory.
Q: How does this compare with the State of Minnesota?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: In 2015, Minnesota adopted the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for the state energy code. Since the International Code Council updates their model codes every 3 years, the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (as currently adopted by North Dakota) represents the next sequential update from the 2012 IECC. Therefore, North Dakota is currently following a newer version of the IECC as compared with Minnesota.
Q: How does the 2012 IECC (adopted by Minnesota) compare to the 2015 IECC (adopted by North Dakota)?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: When the 2012 IECC was written, it represented a major shift in energy conservation requirements as compared with all previous energy code versions. At that time, the Department of Energy challenged the code writing team to reduce building energy use by 30% as compared with the previous 2009 IECC. The 2012 IECC also added more pathways for compliance with the energy code making it more complex to understand and determine the best method for compliance. The 2012 IECC increased the energy conservation requirements for most buildings to be more in line with the voluntary LEED rating system. So by comparison, the 2015 IECC is similar with the 2012 IECC and retains the same compliance options and structure. However, the 2015 IECC has updated some of the specific requirements to be more stringent than the 2012 IECC.
Q: What are some examples of the differences between the 2102 IECC and the 2015 IECC?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: Here are some of the commercial building changes with the 2015 IECC as compared with the 2012 IECC:
- Requirements for existing buildings were reorganized into an entirely new chapter entitled Existing Buildings.
- Under the Building Envelope Requirements section, a new separate sub section was added for thermal envelope exceptions for certain types of equipment buildings.
- A new section and compliance path was added for building envelope compliance that allows building envelope components to be traded off against each other provided that the overall building envelope performance complies with a code minimum design.
- The R-value requirements for insulation above a roof deck were increased for climate zones 1 through 5.
- Clay and shale masonry units were added to materials and assemblies suitable for air barrier compliance.
- The mechanical equipment efficiencies were increased for many of the equipment types.
- A new efficiency table was added for computer room cooling units.
- A new section was added for kitchen exhaust system air flow requirements.
- New sections and efficiency tables were added for walk-in refrigerators and freezers.
- More guidelines have been added to define acceptable daylight control zones.
- The allowable watts/square foot for lighting power were reduced for most building/space types. New sections with transformer and motor efficiency tables have been added.
- New requirements were added for elevators, escalators, and moving walkways.
Q: What can you say about choosing the best compliance path between the 2012 IECC and the 2015 IECC?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: Both the 2012 IECC and 2015 IECC allow for the optional ASHRAE Standard 90.1 to be used for energy code compliance. In the case of the 2012 IECC, the optional ASHRAE Standard 90.1 could be easier to comply with due to a larger glass allowance of 40% (with no daylight control restrictions) and a lower roof insulation requirement of R-20 (for insulation above a roof deck). However, with the revisions to the 2015 IECC, the requirements of the optional ASHRAE Standard 90.1 are more closely aligned to the requirements of the IECC and therefore the optional ASHRAE Standard 90.1 has fewer advantages for easier compliance. In the case of the 2015 IECC, the biggest advantage for the optional ASHRAE Standard 90.1 is still the larger glass allowance of 40% (with no daylight control restrictions). More about the changes in ASHRAE 90.1-2013 from ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010
Q: How is Kraus-Anderson providing assistance to architects, designers and engineers in understanding the 2015 IECC Energy Code standards?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: We are planning to bring some Energy Code classes to Bismarck this year in conjunction with our Bismarck office and KAUniversity. In addition, we’re also open to doing some lunch and learn format Energy Code classes for individual firms, if they are interested in reaching out to me. The classes we provide are 1 hour long and are AIA accredited for 1 LU/HSW continuing education license renewal requirement. Our Energy Code classes provide an overview of the code and how it is organized, the compliance paths available, and a side by side comparison of the compliance path requirements. I have given the Minnesota Energy Code class based on the 2012 IECC to over 50 architect firms and at several conferences. In all instances I have had overwhelming feedback that the class has been helpful in giving designers, owners, and contractors a good understanding of the energy code and a better starting point of how to begin to use it themselves.
Q: Closing thoughts?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: The 2015 IECC brings significant changes in energy efficiency and sustainability requirements for buildings which can present a significant learning curve on how best apply and comply with the code. So I am on a mission to do what I can to help ease that learning curve for better results for all of us in the design and construction industry.